The Global Contrarian – Blog 10

No Room for Complacency on Gender Equity – What Men Need to Do 

by Jeremy Solomons

It has been about 18 months since I last wrote and posted my “monthly” blog on societal and organizational steps to end Institutionally Sanctioned Bullying and Masculine Imbalance. Since then the #MeToo and Times Up movements have taken hold in the USA and other countries around the world. Much progress has been made after decades – if not centuries – of gender-based violence, abuse, inequity and secrecy. And there is still a lot more work for everyone – including empowered men such as me – to do …

I recently renewed the lease for my Honda HR-V car here in Austin. My dealer Rob asked me what color I would like on the new car? My first instinct was to go, as before, with a safe and boring gray that would not stand out. Or maybe black? Or a more daring navy?

Rob then showed me a brand new color: Milano Red. It was bright, distinctive and full of verve and passion. It also reminded me of my two favorite football teams: Manchester United and AC Milan. And it would certainly stand out in a crowd.

I was sorely tempted but then I thought about all the stories that the police tend to stop red cars much more often than other colors of car. “Only if you are speeding …”, Rob smiled.

So I signed the lease for the red rebel. Finding it in parking lots is easy. And I have not been stopped for speeding … yet.

Likewise, it would be very easy for an empowered man like me to play it safe in relation to gender issues; restrain my natural verve and passion; stand back instead of up and out; take no risks and excuse my inaction by saying that women have now “got it” in relation to gender-based violence, abuse, inequity and secrecy.

After all, Starbucks recently trained its whole staff on diversity and followed the lead of Iceland and elsewhere in guaranteeing gender pay parity for all staff. The #MeToo Movement and seven other women feature in the Top 20 of Fortune’s latest list of the “World’s Greatest Leaders”. Miss America has finally ended its controversial swimsuit competition. Prominent male abusers continue to get their comeuppance, such as New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. And a porn star may actually help to bring down another prominent politician, who has boasted of “grabbing women by the …”.

Unfortunately, such a celebration of victory would be premature and complacent at best. And counter-productive and dangerous at worst. The struggle is far from over.

Supposedly “developed” countries like Germany and the UK have actually fallen in The Economist’s latest Global Glass Ceiling Index. Norway’s bold experiment with gender quotas on boards has not produced the desired results so far. Likewise in Australia where family violence against women has increased despite such noble initiatives as the annual “White Ribbon Day” when men are encouraged to speak out against gender-based violence.

Much more disturbingly, an eight-year-old girl was gang-raped and murdered in Northern India and her attackers are now being defended and protected by an unlikely coalition of religious nationalists and legal professionals. All men.

And on a personal note, I have rarely met a woman anywhere in the world, who has not faced some kind of discrimination, harassment or assault at some point in their life. It has usually happened in the past at home, in college or near the start of their careers. But sometimes it has happened more recently, even in positions of power.

For example, there was a recent incident at a large global company, which features on most lists for “Best Companies to Work For”, “Diversity and Inclusiveness”, etc.

A few years ago, a senior female leader was attending a corporate meeting in another state where she was sexually assaulted and harassed by a peer, apparently with two silent male witnesses just looking on. Despite an outcry to other senior leaders, nothing happened to her assailant; her health and career were seriously compromised; and she finally filed a lawsuit a few months ago.

The company’s response was to fire the attacker; pay the victim off and then oust and silence her; and essentially declare the case “closed” as if nothing happened. After all, it was an isolated – if shocking – incident, right?

Probably not.

I had been training at this company for over five years. I was proud of the work I did there before this incident came to light. But I clearly had a quick choice to make as I was meant to be working there soon afterwards with some people who probably knew the parties involved.

In terms of Karen Stinson’s Diversity Awareness Spectrum (below), should I try to continue to be a change agent from the inside or a fighter from the outside?

I debated with myself and some trusted colleagues long and hard about whether the company and its leaders were serious about: doing all it could to investigate and explain what did and didn’t happen in this case and probably others; holding all of those involved truly accountable; and then making sure that nothing like this would ever happen again.

In the end, I concluded that they weren’t and I resigned with immediate effect. So did another colleague. My action sparked incredulity and silence from most of my former colleagues and clients. It also cost me tens of thousands of dollars in immediate and longer-term income (which have fortunately since been more than recouped through other new work).

I have no regrets about becoming a “fighter” in this instance. And I will not hesitate to do so again in future.

Everyone – including empowered men like me – still needs to be vigilant and proactive in making sure that such incidents never happen again and if they do, they are dealt with swiftly, fairly and justly.

We men cannot just be passive bystanders or allies anymore. We need to be committed advocates and activists, taking consistent and sustainable action.

And sometimes we need to be Angry Men. Whether we are black, brown, white, red, green, yellow or blue. Not in the Charleston and Charlottesville way. But in the #MeToo, BLM and Never Again mold. We need to feel and show our passion and emotions in a healthy, constructive manner.

Actor and activist Terry Crews discussed his own gender-related experiences again on TV recently and admitted his own culpability around equity issues in the past.

But he ended on an optimistic note: “This is fixable … 20 years ago you could never talk about things like this … now we have made it more comfortable to do so … and once you have the conversation, everything can really change.”

And so I now call on all other men to do these 10 things to help promote real, sustainable change in gender dynamics (and other areas of inequity and oppression in our society):

  1. Know who you are and what you stand for. Clarify your own values and goals. Identify your own hot buttons and blind spots
  2. Embrace complexity, ambiguity, inconsistency and fallibility in your life (and others). We are all human
  3. Recognize and then swiftly and sincerely take responsibility for any transgressions you may have committed in the past. An authentic apology is never too late
  4. Seek out and connect with other allies, advocates and activists of all genders for solidarity and support
  5. Always try to walk your talk and if you are in a public position of power, be a proactive role model for others
  6. Stand up, speak out and act up for gender equity, working with and for people of all genders in a caring, practical and non-patronizing way
  7. Have the difficult or awkward conversation with others around gender. Usually in a private, safe place
  8. Really listen to the stories of victims, Ask them appropriate questions. Avoid the temptation to launch into problem-solving right away
  9. Do the same with those who have actually been abusive, complicit or oblivious themselves. Try to build bridges with them, however repulsed or frustrated you may feel. And forgive them if they are genuinely remorseful
  10. Be strong, compassionate and consistent. And keep going!


The Global Contrarian – Blog 9

Ending Institutionally Sanctioned Bullying and Masculine Imbalance – Part 2

by Jeremy Solomons

It has been eight months since I last wrote and posted my “monthly” blog on societal and organizational steps to end institutionally sanctioned bullying and masculine imbalance.

I was intending to focus now on what individuals can do but that will be in my next blog as I want to devote this one to a country that I visited recently to see how it has faced up to something far worse than institutionally sanctioned bullying.

jeremy-blog-9The country is Rwanda in East Africa and its challenge has been to deal with the consequences of a genocide that killed about 15% of its population in only three months and displaced a further 30% just over 20 years ago.

Under the firm grasp of its ex-military president, Paul Kagame, Rwanda has focused on societal trust rebuilding; economic stabilization and prosperity; and women’s education and representation.

Similar to South Africa after Apartheid, Rwanda engaged in a form of Trust and Reconciliation work to help heal the emotional and psychological scars of the genocide. This is now embodied in the awe-inspiring Kigali Genocide Memorial where CEO James Smith and others are mapping about ambitious Peace Education plans throughout the country to make sure the horrors of 1994 never happen again.

There is a long way to go but as my philosopher-driver Fred said on our way to the memorial: “My father is Hutu. My mother is Tutsi. But that doesn’t matter any more. We are all Rwandans now.”

Rwanda’s communities are thriving again, as evidenced by the unique practice of Umuganda. On the last Saturday morning of each month, the whole country shuts down and neighborhoods come together to do community service, such as street cleaning and house repairs.

Security is tight but not oppressive in the capital Kigali, which is now one of the safest cities in the world. And one of the cleanest. No trash on the streets. No stray dogs or even cats anywhere. No plastic bags allowed. No trespassing on the grass. The traffic lights are timed. Drivers are patient and polite and in two weeks, this blogger did not see a single fender-bender or worse.

blog-9-2Not surprisingly, Rwanda is now called the Singapore or Switzerland of Africa.

According to the World Bank, the Rwandan real GDP growth averaged about 8% a year between 2001 and 2015. This has enabled high growth, rapid poverty reduction and, since 2005, reduced inequality.

As part of this focus on reducing inequality, more than three-fifths of the parliament is now women – the highest in the world. Reported rapes have gone down from about 10 a day to virtually none.

And the private Akilah Institute for Women is the first institute of higher learning exclusively dedicated for women in Rwanda. In only six years, it has produced nearly 200 graduates in Hospitality Management, Entrepreneurship and Information Systems and plans to quadruple enrollment next year.

But that is not all. As Akilah Country Director Aline Kabanda said: “We thrive to ensure that we equip our students with market relevant skills that will enable them to find employment and achieve economic independence. We see our students as future leaders and as such, we build their understanding of the role that they need to play in the development of Rwanda.”

Does this seem too good to be true? Maybe. Maybe not.

There are some who question President’s Kagame’s relationship with the media and whether he should run for a third term next year even though it was approved by a constitutional amendment and it seems he will be almost certain to win due to near universal support for his social reconciliation and economic reforms. Some are concerned, however, about the lack of a coherent and viable opposition.

Although President Kagame is only 59 years old, he has been in formal and informal power for over 20 years. What would happen if and when he steps down? Are the institutions strong and fair enough to continue his legacy without interruption?

And there are still marked imbalances in male and female access to quality education – especially in rural areas. Edouard Munyamaliza, Executive Director of Rwandan Men’s Resource Centre (RWAMREC) cited the 2014 Demographic and Health Survey which reported that 40% of women and 20% of men have experienced gender-based violence of some form.

This blogger’s conclusion for now is that nowhere is perfect – not even Singapore or Switzerland – and that Rwanda is certainly moving in the right direction in most areas and has achieved an awful lot in only 20 years.

And many of its best practices, such as Umuganda, female representation and peace education – can serve as vibrant models for other “more developed” countries – including the USA where there are tangible concerns about equitable treatment and community healing after the recent election – and how they deal with such challenges as institutionally sanctioned bullying and gender imbalance.

More on how we can respond as individuals next time …

The Global Contrarian – Blog 8

Ending Institutionally Sanctioned Bullying and Masculine Imbalance – Part 1

by Jeremy Solomons

Early Spring greetings to those of you in the Northern hemisphere. Or early Autumn greetings to those of you in the Southern hemisphere. And if you are right on the Equator, take your pick.

It has been just over two months since I wrote my last “monthly” blog on “A Very Inconvenient Truth about Global Leadership”, which focused on “Institutionally Sanctioned Bullying” and “Masculine Imbalance” (which you can still read on

But that’s an improvement on the two-year gap between that blog and my previous one in January 2014.

These two months have allowed me to hit the tarmac running in terms of my 2016 work on global leadership and they have allowed others to respond to the January blog.

A colleague in Brazil likened “Masculine Imbalance” to what Barry Oshry calls the “Dance of Blind Reflex” in his book “Seeing Systems: Unlocking the Mysteries of Organizational Life”.

A colleague in China preferred to call “Masculine Imbalance” either “ego-based” or “lower-self” leadership, as opposed to “wisdom-based” or “higher-self” leadership.

Whatever terms we use, there clearly needs to be action taken on all levels – societal, organizational and individual.


On a societal level, conscious and proactive governments can certainly bring about change in terms of “Institutionally Sanctioned Bullying” and “Masculine Imbalance”.

Goal #5 of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development explicitly calls on all countries to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”.

In 2003, Norway broke new ground with a controversial law requiring all of its larger companies to have 40% of their boards made up of women. There was deep initial skepticism about these “quotas” but the law has helped change Norway’s corporate culture for ever. Instead of tokenism, women now have a critical mass in power sharing and decision making and are making a vital contribution to corporate strategy and success. Other countries have taken note.

Elsewhere, true democracy and free speech can be the best cures for “Institutionally Sanctioned Bullying” and “Masculine Imbalance”.

The best recent example of that is in Myanmar where Aung San Suu Kyi was finally released from a total of 15 years of house arrest and led her National League for Democracy to victory in last year’s general election.

And here in the USA, it will be very interesting to see what the people will decide in this year’s presidential election, which at the time of writing looks likely to feature a Republican candidate, who was recently denounced in an unprecedented way by his 2012 predecessor for his “personal qualities: the bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third grade theatrics.”


On the organizational level, grassroots activism is important but in the end, senior leadership vision, support and action are the key drivers for sustainable change in terms of fairness and balance.

Vision, Mission and Values are usually good places to start.

One well-known energy company was very explicit about what it wanted and did not want in its blunt values statement: “We treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves … We do not tolerate abusive or disrespectful treatment. Ruthlessness, callousness and arrogance don’t belong here.”

What was this enlightened company? None other than Enron whose leaders committed all of these crimes.

So words are clearly not enough. Action is necessary.

In the late 1990s, Mark Moody-Stuart became chairman of Royal Dutch Shell – which was known for being dominated by tall, white, British and Dutch men – and soon realized that this oil behemoth needed to “re-cultivate its garden” to attract, develop and retain high performing women and other under-represented groups in senior leadership positions.

And so he launched a worldwide campaign to increase Diversity and Inclusion (D&I), which has fundamentally altered Shell’s corporate culture.

In the late 2000s, Jim Turley, who freely describes himself as “a pale, stale male” did likewise at the staid Big 4 accounting firm of EY (formerly Ernst and Young).

Believing that “inclusive leadership is good leadership nowadays”, he sponsored and participated in a series of high level forums to discuss these tough issues and then launched a series of targeted training programs cascading down through all of EY’s senior to middle level management. They are called “Leadership Matters” and they are still ongoing around the world eight years later.

Partly as a result of this initiative, EY is now fourth in Diversity Inc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity, compared with 43rd in 2007. It is comfortably ahead of the traditional global D&I powerhouses of Sodexo, Wells Fargo and IBM but Novartis, Kaiser Permanente and PWC still lead the pack.

So how can other organizations take concrete steps on D&I and make their cultures more fair, balanced and inclusive?

A great place to start is with the unique and profoundly usable and useful Global Diversity and Inclusion Benchmarks (GDIB).

It is a comprehensive checklist of organizational standards and outcomes that was first created 10 years ago by Julie O’Mara and Alan Richter, based on earlier research by TVA and in conjunction with a group of global “expert panelists” (which now numbers nearly 100 practitioners and researchers around the world, including this blogger).

The fourth edition of the GDIB has just been completed and it now includes 14 categories in four distinct but related groups:

  1. Foundation, including vision, strategy, leadership and structure
  2. Internal, including recruitment, retention, benefits and training
  3. Bridging, including assessment, communication and sustainability
  4. External, including community relations, products, customer service and supplier diversity

Each of these 14 categories also includes concrete action steps, which can be of great help to board members, management teams and diversity councils alike.

And best of all, the GDIB can be downloaded for absolutely no fee at as long as you tell Julie or Alan what you are doing and share results.

If you want to learn more about the GDIB and other organizational initiatives to end bullying and increase balance and fairness, you may want to join me and about 1,000 other committed D&I change agents at the Forum for Workplace Inclusion in Minneapolis on March 29-31 –

If you can’t make it, I will report back in my next blog in April and I will also explore what individuals can do to end “Institutionally Sanctioned Bullying” and “Masculine Imbalance”.

Happy Spring! Happy Autumn! Happy Whatever!

The Global Contrarian – Blog 7

A Very Inconvenient Truth about Global Leadership

It has been two years since I last wrote and posted my “monthly” blog on this website.

I could come up with some great story about being abducted by aliens for extensive brain draining or orchestrating a humanitarian relief operation in a flood ravaged corner of the world.


The reality is much more mundane but no less powerful or instructive.

Since January 2014, I have been more than busy supporting my daughter as she has been wading through the nerve-wracking shoals of her senior year at high school and first semester in college.

On a professional level, I have been trying to help global leaders navigate the treacherous waters of economic pressures, regulatory clampdowns, organizational politics, team dysfunction and personal trauma.

And on a societal level, I have been observing the seismic shifts in geopolitics as China, Russia and the USA have been playing out a bizarre new version of the Cold War while terrorists, narcos and madmen massacre innocent civilians from Mexico to France to Syria.

There is a key theme that runs through all of the above activities but it is one that is rarely recognized, acknowledged or discussed. It is what I would call “Institutionally Sanctioned Bullying”.

On college campuses and even high and middle schools in the USA and beyond, many young women and people of color live in fear of gender-, race- and religion-based aggression and attack, often while educational leaders do little of practical use beyond delayed knee-jerk responses.

If you don’t believe me, watch the shocking documentary “The Hunting Ground” or read Ta-Nehisi Coates award-winning book “Between the World and Me”.

In the workplace, leaders don’t just rise to the level of their own incompetence but also to a point where they become tinpot dictators who can make lives truly miserable for all of those around them and get away with it. Sometimes for years.

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic’s recent HBR article on “Why Bad Guys Win at Work” makes compelling reading. He mentions the “Dark Triad” of Pyschopathy, Narcissism and Machiavellianism. Know any bosses like that?

And around the world, both self-appointed and elected political leaders abuse, browbeat and even torture the very people that they are meant to be serving, protecting and inspiring. And not just in the Middle East. Hal Marcovitz explores the history and implications of political abuse in his recent book: “Exposing Torture: Centuries of Cruelty”

There are many causes for these linked behaviors and as a conscious but empowered man, I tend to focus on what I would call “Masculine Imbalance”.

I am careful not to say “Male Imbalance” because this type of behavior is not just exhibited by men. Although it is mostly the case.

Some of this imbalance may be biological but then I am no expert on testosterone and such.

But I believe that much of it is systemic within existing societal and organizational cultures.

A case in point was last Spring when I began the first in a series of coaching engagements with mid-level woman leaders at a few different globalizing companies.

This first coachee was an extremely smart, dedicated and passionate team leader who had a reputation of always getting the job done but burning personal bridges along the way as she was a perfectionist who could and would not suffer fools or failure.

Early on in our six-month engagement, she invited me to observe her facilitate the last day of a week-long large team meeting. She was obviously on best behavior. She did interrupt some people and ignored some others but overall, she was very gracious, inclusive and efficient.

Towards the end of the day, a much more senior male leader joined the meeting and displayed exactly the same kind of boorish, domineering and dismissive behavior that she had been accused of. And worse.

But no one complained about him. He was just being a “strong, proven leader with executive presence” in a highly masculine organizational culture where aggression and exclusion are not only condoned but praised and prized under the euphemisms of assertiveness and distinction.

So should she still try to change the behavior that she displayed outside the meeting? Should he change the behavior that he displayed inside the meeting? Should the organization they work for change its culture to eradicate such bullying masculine behavior by anyone and promote a different way of leading and getting results?

Clearly, the answer to all three questions is: YES!!!

But this is obviously much easier said than done.

The next blog will focus on what can be done to correct “Masculine Imbalance” and end bullying on an individual, organizational and societal level.

And hopefully, it will be written and actually appear on this website well before early 2018.

In the meantime, may I wish each reader a very happy, healthful and balanced New Year.